HE’S GOT MY GUN!
For concealed carriers who understand the enormous responsibility they assume simply by arming themselves, taking the time to learn how to retain control of their handgun in worst-case scenarios should be high on their list. It is not hard to imagine the awful feeling of losing control of your pistol and then the horror of looking down its muzzle.
Paul Sharp is a highly respected firearms and empty-hand defensive skills instructor. A retired police officer with 20 years of experience in various roles, including patrol, undercover, training, and SWAT, Paul holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, is a certified Jeet Kune Do Concepts instructor, and boxed and wrestled in high school. Paul is head coach at STRAIGHT BLAST GYM in Elgin, Illinois, a premier fitness, yoga, and martial arts training center.
A disturbingly high percentage of police officers are shot every year with their own handgun. I asked Paul if he could identify the key concepts of proper handgun retention. He teaches the following three major components:
- We should strive to control the attacker’s hands.
- We should create space between the attacker and ourselves.
- We should achieve a position that is superior to the attacker’s position.
Paul starts by recommending that concealed carriers wear their handgun forward of the hip if possible. When done properly, it is much easier to protect a holstered handgun in the event the concealed carrier is suddenly caught up in a violent struggle. There is a significant possibility that if a violent criminal should detect the presence of a concealed handgun by feel, he or she will likely attempt to seize it. If the concealed carrier at that time has responded by keeping their elbows tight to their ribcage and hands up, not only is discovery less likely but his or her ability to protect it from being removed is much enhanced. Concealed carriers would be well served by remembering that the closer they are to a possible threat the greater the possibility is that they may find themselves struggling to retain their handgun.
Should the attacker get his hand on the handgun while holstered, Paul recommends that the concealed carrier secure an overhook over the attacker’s wrist. Simply put, the concealed carrier encircles his adversary’s wrist with the same-side arm and locks the opposing arm in place so that even if the attacker succeeds in pulling the handgun free of the holster, he or she is unable to orient the muzzle towards the concealed carrier. Encircling the attacker’s wrist with an overhook must be done correctly with a focus on proper technique, pressure, and position, otherwise it may fail. Between the attacker’s forearm and hand is the wrist joint, which can be readily wrenched if the concealed carrier drops his or her base and pivots rapidly to the inside. I carry a small fix-bladed knife forward of the hip on the opposite side of my dominant hand knowing that I can bring it to bear once I have achieved a position that allows me to do so unimpeded.
Fletch Fuller is a military veteran and long-time law enforcement officer with a large Florida agency where he serves as the High Liability Training Coordinator. Fuller’s experience includes Patrol, SWAT, and Gang Investigations and Training. He is a regularly featured instructor at the Tactical Conference and an instructor for the International Law Enforcement Educators & Trainers Association and International Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors. Fletch has multiple instructor certifications and a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I contacted Fletch and requested his take on what concealed carriers should consider once they have made the conscious decision to draw a concealed handgun in order to protect themselves and/or their loved ones in an interaction with a violent criminal offender where use of such force is warranted.
Fletch noted retention concerns may differ between uniformed law enforcement officers and concealed carriers. Interestingly enough, he immediately complimented concealed carriers for often being more interested in learning how to protect their handgun than many law enforcement officers. Law enforcement officers carry handguns openly, while concealed carriers do not. The chances that a criminal offender will attempt to take a holstered pistol away from a concealed carrier are reduced unless both become entangled during an attempted assault and the offender discovers that handgun by feel, or if the offender observes the concealed carrier attempt to draw the handgun at normal conversation distances. Otherwise, most fights over the handgun will take place once the concealed carrier displays the same. This will often happen when the concealed carrier is either unaware of the proximity of the of assailant or is aware but goes ahead and attempts to draw the handgun anyway.
Another mistake that concealed carriers may make is that if they feel the need to clear their house they may allow their handgun to penetrate an open doorway before their eyeballs do. If there is a criminal offender in the room who sees the handgun and fears being shot there is a good chance that he or she will attempt to seize control of the handgun, which of course results in a struggle over the same. Fletch pointed out that the criminal offender’s motivation at that time mirrors that of the concealed carrier’s. Neither want to get killed and both will go to great lengths to prevent that from happening. Concealed carriers may very well find themselves in a position in which they literally have to “shoot the criminal offender off the gun” in order to save their own lives.
Another scenario is an attempt by a concealed carrier to manage an interaction with either an unknown contact or a person whose intent is not only suspect but possibly violent. Most concealed carriers do not realize that “too close” is much closer than they think. A failure on our part to manage and maintain an acceptable distance from those type of persons may be the very thing that ends up in a hands-on, chest-to-chest entanglement.
Fletch said that he strongly encourages his students to carry small edged weapons on their support side and learn how to use them effectively if their strong hand is otherwise occupied trying to hold onto their handgun. In other words, the concealed carrier would then have the means of most likely shutting down a violent criminal assault with either hand. Interestingly enough, he said that in the handgun retention classes that he taught that the students also armed with a concealed training knife tended not panic as much while struggling with a role player attempting to take away their training pistol as did those who didn’t have a training knife on their person.
I asked Fletch if there were some key retention principles that concealed carriers should keep in mind.
- The longer the handgun remains at an arm’s reach the more vulnerable the handgun is to being grabbed.
- If the concealed carrier’s range ready position always incorporates full extension (such as Low Ready), the chances are significant that the concealed carrier will default to this position during a high-stress incident.
- Concealed carriers should behave like children if they are forced to display their handgun (I love this analogy). Adults who playfully attempt to take a small child’s favorite toy away from then will immediately observe the child pull the toy close into their body because they instinctively know that it is easier to retain it at that distance than if their arms are fully extended. Concealed carriers would most likely benefit if they practiced assuming a position similar to the Compressed Low Ready (handgun is retracted to the torso, elbows are elevated, and muzzle pointed to the ground at least a few feet in front of the toes). Another useful position is called Position Sul and calls for the Concealed Carrier to place the support hand flat on the lower chest and rest the strong hand on top of the support hand while maintaining a firing grip on the handgun. Done correctly, the muzzle of the handgun is pointed straight down towards the floor and slightly in front of the feet.
- A worst-case scenario might involve the concealed carrier struggling to not lose his or her displayed handgun. A short article such as this is not the proper way to learn how to defend the handgun in such an event, as the manner in which the attacker latches onto the handgun (and the concealed carrier) can vary. Having said that, most viable responses that I am familiar with all involve the concealed carrier once again keeping the handgun close to the body (it may be first necessary to step forward while retracting the arms in order to accomplish this).
While it is definitely disconcerting to know that our own handgun can become the instrument of our death, it is likewise comforting know that we can greatly reduce the possibility of preventing that from happening. In order to best accomplish the actions discussed above concealed carriers should consider training with instructors like Paul Sharp and Fletch Fuller and then put in the sweat equity required to achieve a reasonable level of competence.
Steve is a long-time defensive weapons instructor based out of Texas who has trained hundreds of men and women of all ages for more than two decades on how to better prepare to defend themselves and their loved ones. Steve has completed over 80 private-sector and law enforcement-only defensive weapons and tactics classes, and has trained civilian and law-enforcement officers in six states. Moses is a reserve deputy, former member of a multi-precinct Special Response Team, competitive shooter, and martial artist. Steve has written numerous articles for SWAT Magazine and other publications. Steve is a licensed Texas Level 4 Personal Security Officer and Instructor who was Shift Lead on a mega-church security detail for seven years, and has provided close protection for several former foreign Heads of State. He is currently an instructor at Relson Gracie Jiu Jitsu/Krav Maga in Tyler, Texas and Director of Training for Palisade Training Group (www.ptgtrainingllc.com).